Saturday, February 12, 2011

Socially Appropriate Behavior 85% of the Time

Last night we heard a squeal coming from the bathroom -- sounded like a squeal of happiness, but we weren't certain, so I hollered, "Bunny, you alright?"

"Yeah," she called back, "I'm just thinking about Pokémon Black and White. It's a whole new Pokémon. It's so exciting."

The best advice from the world of self-help literature and poetry alike is "love what you love." Part of a poem by Mary Oliver ("Wild Geese") comes to mind:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
And our girl does. She loves what she loves: Pokémon, ice cream, Saturdays (because they mean no school and ice cream), Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (because all the kids dress up and have a party without the grown-ups and ice cream is often involved), Christmas (ornaments, cookies, gifts, and no school -- what could be better?), cute little dogs, her iPhone, snow days, any half-days at school, and summer vacation.

I wish Mary Oliver were right -- that all she has to do is love what she loves. So far it hasn't proven to be the case in every setting.

When she's at school she also has to "be good." Of course the language of an IEP doesn't say, "be good." It says something like "Increase her awareness of socially appropriate behavior and demonstrate this awareness 85% of the time."

Earlier this year there was a lot of socially inappropriate behavior at school. There was loud hand waving -- couldn't wait to be called on and still can't. There was crumbling up paper in frustration and grinding pencils into the desk until they broke. There was screaming and shouting that she had to have her turn. There was uncontrollable crying -- sobbing over not being called on, missing a turn, or any number of unfortunate and frequent classroom events.

Things were hard. Very hard. The doctor we adore who has seen her for years helped. We adjusted her medications. We implemented a behavior plan to help the teachers understand that the aforementioned behavior wasn't voluntary -- for some reason the fantasy of volition still has most people enthralled, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Now we have our easier-going girl back, mostly, I think, thanks to the meds. She still raises her hand frantically to be called on. But she doesn't scream when it doesn't happen. And she squeals with delight about the premiere of a new Pokémon show. Whether that is socially appropriate for a 13-year-old girl we'll have to consider another day.


jeshiko said...

she sounds really delightful. Hard work I am sure but delightful none the less. we are just started out on our jounrey with our 3 year old (then 2) just diagnosed a few months ago. Reading blogs is about other parents and their special kids is really is mine though it's in it's infancy at the moment.

MothersVox said...

Jeshiko, Thanks for stopping by over here! I just looked at your blog! The post about smoothies make good facials is hilarious! I remember those days! Now we're actually dealing with teenage acne! Hard to believe. Maybe we'll try the smoothie solution.